A measure of truckload linehaul rates hit an all-time high in March, up 5.1% from the same time a year ago.

The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index rose to 126.5, a 2.3% increase from the month before, following a 1.3% drop in February and a 0.9% decline in January.

“With demand increasing and capacity remaining extraordinarily tight, we expect that contract rate increases will continue to filter into our index at higher levels,” said its publisher, Cass Information Systems.

Investment firm Avondale Partners pointed out that although spot market pricing has decelerated somewhat, it remains strong. "We are not surprised to see our index continue to post mid-to-high single digit gains and we expect this to continue through the second quarter of 2015."

Avondale sees truckload pricing increasing between 4% and 9% in 2015, depending on how much rate increase each carrier was successful in obtaining in 2014 and when those rate increases were achieved, because contracts settled later in 2014 were typically at higher rates.

The Cass Truckload Linehaul Index is an indicator of market fluctuations in per-mile truckload pricing. It isolates the linehaul component of full truckload costs from other components, such as fuel and accessorials, providing a look at trends in baseline truckload prices.

Intermodal Prices Mixed

Meantime, Casses indicator of intermodal freight transportation prices rose 2.7% in March from the month before, erasing a 2.3% decline in February.

The increase in the Cass Intermodal Price Index to 133.3 in March places the measure at its highest level since October 2014. This is despite a March drop of 1.6% compared to the same time a year ago, following declines of 1.8% in February and 0.3% in January.

With diesel prices continuing to fall, loads are shifting, to the extent capacity is available, from domestic intermodal back to over-the-road truck, which is challenging demand and pricing power for intermodal, according to Cass.

The Cass Intermodal Price Index is an indicator of market fluctuations in per-mile U.S. domestic intermodal costs that includes all costs associated with the move, such as linehaul, fuel and accessorials.

Data within both indexes is derived from actual freight invoices paid on behalf of Cass’ clients, which totaled over $23 billion in 2013, according to the company.

Evan Lockridge

Evan Lockridge

Business Contributing Editor

Trucking journalist since 1990, in the news business since early ‘80s.